Kaiser Friedrich III class battleship
Kaiser Friedrich III class battleships were a class of pre–World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought battleship is the general term for all of the types of sea-going battleships built between the mid-1890s and 1905. Pre-dreadnoughts replaced the ironclad warships of the 1870s and 1880s...

A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s of the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Kaiserliche Marine
Kaiserliche Marine
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded...

. The class was made up of five ships, all of which were named for German emperors. The Kaiser Friedrich III class saw the introduction of the traditional armament layout for German battleships—four large-caliber guns, but of comparatively smaller caliber compared to contemporary battleships, in two gun turrets—prior to the advent of the dreadnought
The dreadnought was the predominant type of 20th-century battleship. The first of the kind, the Royal Navy's had such an impact when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built after her were referred to as "dreadnoughts", and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts...

 type of battleship in the early 1900s. They also standardized the use of three screws for battleships.

Kaiser Friedrich III
SMS Kaiser Friedrich III
SMS Kaiser Friedrich III was the lead ship of the Kaiser Friedrich III class of pre-dreadnought battleships. She was laid down at the Kaiserliche Werft in Wilhelmshaven in 1895, and finished in October 1898...

 was laid down at Wilhelmshaven
Wilhelmshaven is a coastal town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the western side of the Jade Bight, a bay of the North Sea.-History:...

 Navy Dockyard in March, 1895, followed by Kaiser Wilhelm II
SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II
SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II was the second ship of the of pre-dreadnought battleships. She was built at the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven and launched 14 September 1897. The ship was completed 7 October 1898 and commissioned into the fleet as flagship on 4 February 1902...

 in October, 1896, also in Wilhelmshaven. Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse was laid down at Germania, Kiel
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

 in January, 1898, followed by Kaiser Barbarossa
SMS Kaiser Barbarossa
SMS Kaiser Barbarossa was a German pre-dreadnought battleship of the . The ship was built for the Imperial Navy, which had begun a program of expansion at the direction of Kaiser Wilhelm II. She was constructed at Schichau, in Danzig...

 at Schichau, Danzig in August of that year, and Kaiser Karl Der Grosse, a month later in September, at Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

. Work on all five vessels was completed by 1901

The five Kaiser Friedrich III class battleships were assigned to the I Squadron of the Home Fleet (Heimatflotte) after commissioning. Here they conducted extensive annual training maneuvers with the rest of the fleet. After ten years of fleet service, they were replaced with newer ships. They were transferred to the III Squadron of the fleet, which had by then been reorganized as the High Seas Fleet, and placed in reserve. The ships were recalled to active service at the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, but saw limited duty during the war. They initially served in V Squadron, until 1915, when the ships were relegated to auxiliary roles, primarily as prison ships. After the war, all five of the ships were sold and scrapped by 1922.


Design work on the class began in 1892 and lasted until 1894. The ships of the Kaiser Friedrich III class marked a significant departure from the previous s. Heavy-caliber guns designed to penetrate armor were abandoned and replaced with smaller quick-firing guns. These guns were intended to raze the superstructure of enemy battleships and demoralize the crew. The propulsion system was improved and reorganized to incorporate a third propeller shaft. The armor system, however, remained similar to that employed on the Brandenburgs.

General characteristics

The Kaiser Friedrich III class ships were 120.9 metres (396.7 ft) long at the waterline and 125.3 m (411.1 ft) overall. They had a beam
Beam (nautical)
The beam of a ship is its width at the widest point. Generally speaking, the wider the beam of a ship , the more initial stability it has, at expense of reserve stability in the event of a capsize, where more energy is required to right the vessel from its inverted position...

 of 20.4 m (66.9 ft) and a draft
Draft (hull)
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

 of 7.89 m (25.9 ft) forward and 8.25 m (27.1 ft) aft. The ships displaced
Displacement (ship)
A ship's displacement is its weight at any given time, generally expressed in metric tons or long tons. The term is often used to mean the ship's weight when it is loaded to its maximum capacity. A number of synonymous terms exist for this maximum weight, such as loaded displacement, full load...

 11785 tonnes (11,598.8 LT) at full load. Transverse and longitudinal steel frames were used to build the hulls for the Kaiser Friedrich III class ships. Steel hull plates were riveted to the frame. The hull contained twelve watertight compartments and a double bottom
Double bottom
A double bottom is a ship hull design and construction method where the bottom of the ship has two complete layers of watertight hull surface: one outer layer forming the normal hull of the ship, and a second inner hull which is somewhat higher in the ship, perhaps a few feet, which forms a...

 that ran for 70 percent of the hull.

The German navy regarded them as excellent sea vessels. They had a tight turning circle and were very responsive. The ships rolled up to 15° and had a roll period of 12 seconds. They suffered only minor speed loss in heavy seas, but up to 40 percent with the rudder hard over. Their metacentric height
Metacentric height
The metacentric height is a measurement of the static stability of a floating body. It is calculated as the distance between the centre of gravity of a ship and its metacentre . A larger metacentric height implies greater stability against overturning...

 was between 0.917 to 1.18 m (3 to 3.9 ft). The ships carried a number of smaller boats, including two picket boats, two launches
Launch (boat)
A launch in contemporary usage refers to a large motorboat. The name originally referred to the largest boat carried by a warship. The etymology of the word is given as Portuguese lancha "barge", from Malay lancha, lancharan, "boat," from lanchar "velocity without effort," "action of gliding...

, one pinnace
Pinnace (ship's boat)
As a ship's boat the pinnace is a light boat, propelled by sails or oars, formerly used as a "tender" for guiding merchant and war vessels. In modern parlance, pinnace has come to mean a boat associated with some kind of larger vessel, that doesn't fit under the launch or lifeboat definitions...

, two cutters, two yawl
A yawl is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an additional mast located well aft of the main mast, often right on the transom, specifically aft of the rudder post. A yawl (from Dutch Jol) is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an...

s, and two dinghies
A dinghy is a type of small boat, often carried or towed for use as a ship's boat by a larger vessel. It is a loanword from either Bengali or Urdu. The term can also refer to small racing yachts or recreational open sailing boats. Utility dinghies are usually rowboats or have an outboard motor,...

. The crew numbered 39 officers and 612 enlisted men. When serving as a squadron flagship, a ship had its crew augmented by another 12 officers and between 51 to 63 enlisted men.


The Kaiser Friedrich III type battleships were powered by three 3-cylinder vertical triple expansion engines that drove three screws. Kaiser Friedrich III, Kaiser Barbarossa, and Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse were equipped with three 3-bladed screws that were 4.5 m (14.8 ft) in diameter. Kaiser Karl der Grosse and Kaiser Wilhelm II were equipped with two of the 3-bladed screws on the outer shafts and a four-bladed screw that was 4.2 m (13.8 ft) in diameter on the center shaft. Kaiser Friedrich III had four Thornycroft
Thornycroft was a United Kingdom-based vehicle manufacturer which built coaches, buses, and trucks from 1896 until 1977.-History:Thornycroft started out with steam vans and lorries. John Isaac Thornycroft, the naval engineer, built his first steam lorry in 1896...

 and eight cylindrical boilers; Kaiser Wilhelm II had a similar arrangement, except the Thornycroft boilers were replaced by Marine-type boilers. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was equipped with four Marine and six cylindrical boilers, while Kaiser Barbarossa had four Thornycroft and six cylindrical boilers. Kaiser Karl der Grosse had two Marine boilers, two Marine double boilers, and six cylindrical boilers.

The powerplant were rated at 13000 ihp, but on trials could produce up to 13950 ihp. This generated a top speed of 17.5 knots (34.3 km/h). The ships carried 650 tonnes (639.7 LT) of coal, although the use of additional spaces within the ships increased fuel capacity to 1070 tonnes (1,053.1 LT). This provided a maximum range of 3420 nautical miles (6,333.8 km) at a cruising speed of 10 knots (5.4 m/s). Electrical power was supplied by five 320 kW 74 Volt
The volt is the SI derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference, and electromotive force. The volt is named in honor of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta , who invented the voltaic pile, possibly the first chemical battery.- Definition :A single volt is defined as the...

 generators in Kaiser Friedrich III and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and four 240 kW 74 V generators in the other three ships.


The ships' armament consisted of a main battery of four 24 cm (9.4 in) SK L/40 guns in twin gun turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

s,In Imperial German Navy gun nomenclature, "SK" (Schnellfeuerkanone) denotes that the gun quick firing, while the L/40 denotes the length of the gun. In this case, the L/40 gun is 40 calibers, meaning that the gun is 40 as times long as it is in diameter. one fore and one aft of the central superstructure
A superstructure is an upward extension of an existing structure above a baseline. This term is applied to various kinds of physical structures such as buildings, bridges, or ships...

. The guns were mounted in Drh.L. C/98 turrets, which allowed elevation to 30° and depression to −5°. At maximum elevation, the guns could hit targets out to 16900 metres (18,482.1 yd). The guns fired 140 kilograms (308.6 lb) shells at a muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity is the speed a projectile has at the moment it leaves the muzzle of the gun. Muzzle velocities range from approximately to in black powder muskets , to more than in modern rifles with high-performance cartridges such as the .220 Swift and .204 Ruger, all the way to for tank guns...

 of 690 m/s (2,263 ft/s). They had a rate of fire
Rate of fire
Rate of fire is the frequency at which a specific weapon can fire or launch its projectiles. It is usually measured in rounds per minute , or per second .-Overview:...

 of three to four shots per minute. Each gun was supplied with 75 shells, for a total of 300.

Secondary armament included eighteen 15 cm (5.9 inch) SK L/40 guns; six were emplaced in single turrets amidships and nine were mounted in MPL casemate
A casemate, sometimes rendered casement, is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired. originally a vaulted chamber in a fortress.-Origin of the term:...

s.MPL stands for Mittel-Pivot-Lafette (Central pivot mounting). See Navweaps.com These guns fired armor-piercing shells at a rate of 4–5 per minute. The ships carried 120 shells per gun, for a total of 2,160 rounds total. The guns could depress to −7 degrees and elevate to 20 degrees, for a maximum range of 13,700 m (14,990 yd). They were manually elevated and trained.

The ships also carried twelve 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/30 quick-firing guns, also mounted in casemates. These guns were supplied with between 170 and 250 shells per gun. These guns fired 13.8 kg (30.4 lb) at a muzzle velocity of 590 mps (1,936 fps). Their rate of fire was approximately 15 shells per minute; the guns could engage targets out to 10,500 m (11,480 yd). The gun mounts were manually operated. The ships' gun armament was rounded out by twelve machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....


The ships were also armed with six 45 cm torpedo tubes, all in above-water swivel mounts. Four tubes were mounted on the sides of the ship, another in the bow, and the last in the stern. These weapons were 5.1 m (16 ft 9 in) long and carried a 87.5 kg (193 lb) TNT warhead. They could be set at two speeds for different ranges. At 26 kn (14.2 m/s), the torpedoes had a range of 800 m (870 yd). At an increased speed of 32 kn (17.4 m/s), the range was reduced to 500 m (550 yb).


The Kaiser Friedrich III class ships were armored with steel produced by Krupp
The Krupp family , a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen, have become famous for their steel production and for their manufacture of ammunition and armaments. The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp, was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th...

. They had an armor belt that was 300 millimetres (11.8 in) thick in the central portion of the hull at the waterline. It tapered to 150 mm (5.9 in) in the forward section and 200 mm (7.9 in) in the rear, although the belt did not extend fully aft. The lower portion of the belt ranged in thickness from 100 to 180 mm (3.9 to 7.1 in). The entire belt was backed with 250 mm (9.8 in) of teak
Teak is the common name for the tropical hardwood tree species Tectona grandis and its wood products. Tectona grandis is native to south and southeast Asia, mainly India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Burma, but is naturalized and cultivated in many countries, including those in Africa and the...

. The armored deck was 65 mm (2.6 in) thick.

The conning tower
Conning tower
A conning tower is a raised platform on a ship or submarine, often armored, from which an officer can con the vessel; i.e., give directions to the helmsman. It is usually located as high on the ship as practical, to give the conning team good visibility....

 was protected by armored sides that were 250 mm thick and a roof that was 30 mm (1.2 in) thick. Each main-battery turret had a 50 mm (2 in) thick roof and 250 mm thick sides. The 15 cm guns mounted in turrets were protected by 150 mm thick sides and 70 mm (2.8 in) thick gun shields. Those in the casemates also had 150 mm worth of armor protection.


Kaiser Friedrich III, the first ship of the class, was ordered from the Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven
Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven
Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven was a German shipbuilding company in Wilhelmshaven, Prussian Hanover. It was founded in 1853, first as Königliche Werft Wilhelmshaven but renamed in 1871 with the proclamation of the German Empire...

 as Ersatz Preussen.German warships were ordered under provisional names; new additions to the fleet were given letter designations, while those that were intended to replace older vessels were given "Ersatz
Ersatz means 'substituting for, and typically inferior in quality to', e.g. 'chicory is ersatz coffee'. It is a German word literally meaning substitute or replacement...

 (name of the ship to be replaced)".
She was intended to replace the old armored frigate She was laid down in 1895 under construction number 22. She was launched on 1 July 1896, after which fitting out commenced; this included the installation of the ship's armament and the completion of the superstructure. The ship was completed and commissioned into the German fleet on 7 October 1898. Kaiser Wilhelm IIs keel was laid in Wilhelmshaven in 1896, also at the Kaiserliche Werft, under construction number 24. She was ordered under the contract name Ersatz Friedrich der Grosse, to replace the armored frigate . Kaiser Wilhelm II was launched on 14 September 1897 and commissioned on 13 February 1900.

Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was ordered under the contract name Ersatz König Wilhelm as a replacement for the obsolete . Her keel was laid at the Germaniawerft dockyard under construction number 79 in 1898. The ship was launched on 1 June 1899 and commissioned into the fleet on 5 May 1901. The keel for Kaiser Barbarossa—ordered as "B", an addition to the fleet—was laid down at the Schichau-Werke
The Schichau-Werke was a German engineering works and shipyard based in Elbing, formerly part of the German Empire, and which is today the town of Elbląg in northern Poland. It also had a subsidiary shipyard in Danzig .-Early years:...

 in Danzig in 1898. Her construction number was 640. She was launched on 21 April 1900 and commissioned into the German navy on 10 June 1901. Also in 1898, Kaiser Karl der Grosse was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg under construction number 136. She was ordered as an addition to the fleet, and so was assigned the contract name "A". The last ship of the class to be completed, Kaiser Karl der Grosse was launched on 18 October 1899 and commissioned into the fleet on 4 February 1902.

Service history

When Kaiser Wilhelm II was commissioned into the fleet, she assumed the position of fleet flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

; she held this position until 1906. The other four ships joined her in the I Squadron of the Heimatflotte (Home Fleet), where they remained for ten years. The five ships took part in extensive training maneuvers in September 1902 with the rest of the fleet. Throughout the maneuvers the Kaiser Friedrich III class ships operated as the opposing force
Opposing force
An opposing force or enemy force is a military unit tasked with representing an enemy, usually for training purposes in war game scenarios...

, with the exception of Kaiser Wilhelm II. As the fleet flagship, Kaiser Wilhelm II hosted Wilhelm II during the several of the mock engagements and served as the observation point for the senior staff.

Between 1907 and 1910, the ships of the class were heavily rebuilt, with the exception of Kaiser Karl der Grosse. During the modernization, the ships had their superstructures cut down. Four 15 cm guns and one torpedo tube were also removed. The ships' 8.8 cm guns were repositioned to the upper decks where the 15 cm guns had been located. Also, the smoke stacks were lengthened.

By 1911, the fleet was reorganized as the High Seas Fleet
High Seas Fleet
The High Seas Fleet was the battle fleet of the German Empire and saw action during World War I. The formation was created in February 1907, when the Home Fleet was renamed as the High Seas Fleet. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz was the architect of the fleet; he envisioned a force powerful enough to...

, and new dreadnought battleships were beginning to enter service. As a result, the Kaiser Friedrich III class ships were transferred to the III Squadron and then placed into reserve. In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the five ships were recalled to active duty and placed in the V Squadron of the fleet. In February 1915, the ships were withdrawn from active service for a second time. The ships were disarmed by 1916 and transferred to secondary roles. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse became a torpedo training ship and Kaiser Wilhem II became the headquarters ship for the commander of the High Seas Fleet in Wilhelmshaven. The other three ships were used as floating prisons. In 1917, Kaiser Friedrich III was transferred to barracks ship duties in Flensburg
Flensburg is an independent town in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Flensburg is the centre of the region of Southern Schleswig...

. All of the ships, with the exception of Kaiser Wilhelm II, were stricken from the navy register on 6 December 1919 and sold for scrapping. Kaiser Wilhelm II followed on 17 March 1921. By 1922, all five ships had been broken up for scrap metal. The bow ornaments from Kaiser Friedrich III and Kaiser Wilhelm II are preserved at the Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr
Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr
The Bundeswehr Military History Museum is the military museum of the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, and one of the major military history museums in Germany. The museum is under the technical and administrative chain of command of the German Armed Forces Military History Research Office. It...

in Dresden.
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